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Recipe special

Too knackered to cook a fancy supper? A stunning summer salad from award-winning food writer Diana Henry

Having one of those days when ‘make dinner’ is just one of 8 million things on your to-do list? Totally run out of ideas? Yup, us too. But help is at hand, as we tap up our favourite cooks to inspire us with a nifty new dish (because there’s only so much pasta and pesto a girl can eat). And to kick off this new section we welcome the wonderful, award-winning food writer Diana Henry into the Muddy kitchen (not literally sadly, now that would be exciting)…

Picture credit: Chris Terry

Diana has selected a recipe from her latest cook book How To Eat A Peach, which she’ll be talking about this weekend at the Chiddingstone Literary Festival. The book explores menu planning, Diana’s favourite part of cooking. This recipe is one that we’ll all be reaching for when required to impress our guests on a hot summer’s day (here’s hoping we get a summer). Over to you, Diana…

Summer is not the time for making complicated food. Heat slows the brain. Our appetites are fickle as well; we aren’t sure what we want to eat. Even the keenest cooks have days when a tomato salad is the most they can muster (and there ’s nothing wrong with that, it ’s one of  the best dishes of  the summer). On the other hand, you want to give friends something they aren’t making for themselves at home (so not that tomato  salad). Try this instead:

Roast tomatoes, fennel & chickpeas with preserved lemons & honey (serves 6)

Picture credit: Laura Edwards

It might seem a hassle to roast the fennel and tomatoes separately, but it does make things easier when you come to assemble this, as each element stays intact and keeps its shape. You can use flat-leaf parsley or mint leaves instead of coriander in the dressing, or extend the dish by adding leaves (rocket, watercress or baby spinach) if you like, though then you’ll need to make a bit more dressing. You can make all the elements ahead of time. Serve with saffron couscous, it ’s a great contrast in both colour and texture.

for the tomatoes

10 large plum tomatoes

3 tablespoons regular olive oil

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1½ tablespoons harissa

2 teaspoons caster sugar

sea salt flakes and freshly ground 

black pepper

for the fennel

2 large fennel bulbs

juice of ½ lemon

2 garlic cloves, crushed

½ teaspoon fennel seeds, 

coarsely crushed in a mortar

generous pinch of chilli flakes

2½ tablespoons extra virgin 

olive oil  

400g can of chickpeas, drained 

and rinsed

for the dressing

2 small preserved lemons, plus 

2 teaspoons juice from the jar 

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar 

1½ tablespoons runny honey 

5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

4 tablespoons chopped coriander

Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F/gas mark 5.

Halve the tomatoes lengthways and lay in a single layer in a roasting tin or ovenproof  dish. Mix the regular olive oil, balsamic vinegar and harissa and pour this over the tomatoes, tossing to coat well, then turn the tomatoes cut sides up. Sprinkle with the sugar and season.

Quarter the fennel bulbs, cut off  the stalks and remove any coarse outer leaves. Pull off  any tender fronds (reserve these) and cut each piece of  fennel into 2.5cm- 1in-) thick wedges, keeping them intact at the base. Toss in a bowl with the lemon juice (it stops them discolouring). Add the garlic, fennel seeds, chilli and extra virgin olive oil, then season and turn everything over with your hands. Spread out the fennel in a second roasting tin and cover tightly with foil.

Put both trays in the oven. Roast the fennel for 25–30 minutes, until tender (the undersides should be pale gold), then remove the foil and roast for another 5–10 minutes, or until soft, golden and slightly charred. Roast the tomatoes for 35–40 minutes, or until caramelized in patches and slightly shrunken. Stir the chickpeas into the fennel and taste for seasoning. Leave both to cool to room temperature.

Now make the dressing. Discard the flesh from the preserved lemons and cut the rind into dice. Whisk the wine vinegar with the preserved lemon juice, honey and extra virgin olive oil, season and add the lemon rind and coriander. Taste for seasoning and sweet-sour balance.

Arrange the fennel, chickpeas and tomatoes on a platter, adding all the juices from the roasting tins; there might be quite a bit from the tomatoes. Scatter any fennel fronds you reserved over the top. Spoon on the dressing, or serve it on the side.

How to Eat a Peach: menus, stories and places by Diana Henry is published by Mitchell Beazley, £25 (www.octopusbooks.co.uk)

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